A massive rat which was reported in Gravesend yesterday (April 15) sparked debate throughout the borough.

The dead-looking rodent was pictured on a pink spade and tweeted by BBC Radio 2 yesterday.

Debate has raged over whether the photo might be a totally different rodent altogether, one pest control expert saying it could be a rodent known a beaver-type animal known as a coypu.

Another animal specialist claims it is an “oversized, brown rat” mutated from the increase in food waste.

BBC Radio 2 posted a photo of the dead-looking rodent on a pink spade on Twitter, from a listener known as "Sarah" days after the Daily Mail reported rats "the size of small cats" are invading cities and are immune to poison.

Ben Johnson, who is director of Direct Pest Solution, based in Trosley Avenue, Gravesend, believes it is another animal altogether.

He told News Shopper: “I don’t think it’s a rat, I believe it’s a coypu, a bit like a beaver.

“We certainly haven’t had any reports of giant rats.”

News Shopper: Coypu photo: José Reynaldo da Fonseca

The coypu is a semi-aquatic rodent which lives alongside stretches of water.

It is originally from South America, but has now been introduced to Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

However, rare breeds expert Wayne May, based in Dartford, believes the photo shows a rat.

He said: “The picture looks like a large, oversized brown rat due to current climate and the increase food waste.

“It is not uncommon to this species weighing around 1.5lbs or more in the UK
“Large rats are increasing being recorded.”

News Shopper readers waded into the debate.

Former Labour MP John Austin tweeted: “Could be coypu if it has webbed hind feet.

“I've had Pâté de ragondin (copyu) in France. Very good.”

Puddy Tat, known as @Catford_Cat, tweeted, perhaps not entirely seriously, that the picture showed a Siberian hamster.

Have you seen any giant rats in the News Shopper area? Send you photos to hwood@london.newsquest.co.uk or call 01689 885 721.